Franchise v Unaffiliated Real Estate Office

What’s the difference between a local real estate franchise and an unaffiliated real estate company? In most ways they are the same. They have the same licensing requirements and Realtors perform the same functions to help people buy and sell property. The differences between a franchise and an unaffiliated office are primarily in two categories: 1. A local real estate office that affiliates with a nationally recognized brand doesn’t have to work as hard to establish name recognition thanks to national franchisor (parent company) advertising campaigns, and 2. Franchisors often provide additional support such as templates for promotional materials and websites, consistent updates regarding changes in real estate law, and a massive referral network.

Unaffiliated real estate offices can certainly stay up-to-date with legal changes, develop their own promotional materials, and create referral networks, so there’s no need to affiliate. But for me and several other brokers in town, it makes sense to work with a well-recognized franchisor. We benefit from the economies of scale that come with a regional or national company, including discounts on essential supplies like lawn signs and business cards. We also have access to a legal team for advice on complicated real estate transactions and in my case, Realtors have access to colleagues nationwide—and all of their contacts. Real estate is a relationship business, so having access to thousands of Realtors is a valuable asset. All of these things translate to better service to the customer.

As in many industries, not all franchisors are created equal. In fact, after years with Realty World, I recently decided to move to REMAX because they provide more of what I’m looking for. Note: I am in no way associated with the broker who used to have a REMAX franchise in town. My company remains independently owned and operated, as does his.

Regardless of whether your Realtor works for a franchise or an unaffiliated office, the most important criteria for choosing a Realtor are these:

  1. Do they have the expertise to meet your needs? When measuring expertise, pay attention to years and type of experience, as well as professional designations as Realtor (instead of simply real estate agent). Some Realtors even have additional education like GRI (Graduate, Realtor Institute) or CRS (Certified Residential Specialist).
  2. Do they have the capacity to take you on as a client? Although the agent may have wonderful credentials, it is important to find out about their current workload. Can they give you the time and attention you need to buy or sell a property on your timeline?
  3. Do they have the technical tools to do the job right? In this world of constant communication and electronic marketplaces, can your Realtor excel? Do they or their company have a mobile app? Website? Blog? Access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)?

If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

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